Worms Revolution Hands On
Developer: Team 17 / Publisher: Steam / Release Date: October 10, 2012 / Platforms: PC / ESRB: Everyone [Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief, Mild Language ]
Team 17′s Worms franchise is a prime example of one of those games. From its debut in 1995, it’s been around practically as long as the Internet itself—the span of the Internet that has had any halfway-mainstream user relevance, at any rate—and its particular brand of addictive, intense, cartoonishly-violent strategy has brought ruin or near-ruin to many a players’ sleep schedule, office productivity and/or actual significant other (one time-tested way to avoid this latter issue has always been to get said significant other obsessively playing the game as well… although this solution invariably gives rise to an entirely new set of unforeseen, totally-other difficulties). At least one new Worms iteration per year since the mid-2000s, too, not all of them good news by any means — including some ill-advised ports and some really unfortunate experimental side-excursions into the 3D realm… which really just didn’t, um, work. Worms Revolution aims to steer the franchise back to its mechanically 2D roots, while adding a host of new graphical—and tactical—options.
Catch a session of Worms Revolution out of the corner of your eye (and ear) and you’ll find yourself in familiar enough territory: teams of squeaky-voiced, big-eyed, cartoonish worms moving hither and yon about craggy, crazy, colorful 2D environments and blasting the bejeebus out of each other with a wide variety of weapons. If you somehow haven’t ever encountered the Worms brand of turn-based-with-real-time-elements gameplay, check out this gameplay video — it’s as if someone took the ancient shot-vector video game Artillery and mashed it up into 1985′s Saturday morning cartoons (along with a bucket of methamphetamine psychosis, and a generous dollop of post-traumatic stress disorder).
Look a little closer, and the first noticeable change you’ll see to the Worms formula is that a brand-new 3D engine is running the visual show (although the mechanics are still tried-and-true 2D). As result, the Worms themselves look more bulbous and goofy than ever, which really is saying a lot, as they wave their disembodied hands around (of course the worms have hands, without which they couldn’t wield grenades and shotguns; don’t be an idiot). Look even closer, and you might notice that the Team 17 folks have made at least some effort to keep things to some kind of relative ‘scale’. Where previous Worms battlefield might have been littered with surprised-looking cartoon fish or rocket ships or whatever—items that, being of equal apparent size, made utter nonsense of an overarching game scale—the objects scattered throughout Worms Revolution tend to be… well, at least closer to the size-realm of our annelid antagonists: seashells, rusty bolts, tiny electronic devices and the like.
Look closer still, and the physical situation gets more interesting. The aforementioned scattered decorative items on (and partly comprising) the battlefield are not merely more bits of scenery waiting to be cratered by high explosives, but are in fact actual, discrete objects with their own physics and ability to be damaged or destroyed. Crank off a bazooka round to blow up that rusty hip-flask atop a hillock, and the fluid inside it—from previous run-ins with Team 17, I’m just naturally assuming it’s booze—will splash and splatter about (more on the new fluid dynamics below). Walk one of your worms across a small radio handset, and the object will actually teeter with said worm’s weight. Get that edge-balanced petri dish rolling down an incline with the smack of your baseball bat, and it could conceivably plug a small gap, temporarily trapping some enemy worms in a cavern below. Or it could provide a temporary footbridge for your own troops, at least until somebody else moves it or blows it up.
The game’s physics really add a new twist to the game when it comes to water. Now, every long-term Worms player already knows that getting one of your hapless guys Babe Ruthed out into the ocean surrounding a battlefield spelled instant death in previous games. Now, battle-maps can contain individual craters and natural pockets filled with water. Thus, if some trigger-happy, aim/strategy-deficient annelid accidentally or intentionally blows out the side of one of these standing virtual reservoirs, the water inside is going to rush out in a palpable flood—gushing down inclines, seeking its own level, burbling into every narrow channel and crevice it comes across… and, given enough force, sweeping away any luckless worms or other items (such as crates or land mines) in its path.
If a worm gets caught in a flooding chamber and the water level rises over his head, he’ll take 5 points of damage per turn (with a sad, sodden little “urgle!” drowning-cry) until he finally escapes… or literally dies trying. One of the new (and very cartoony, in a Warner Bros. kind of way) inventory items is a ‘portable drain.’ Activate this item when you’re underwater, and all the liquid around you will quickly, magically wormhole away to somewhere else. A neat trick, if you can do it.
While the majority of the long-standing Worms arsenal—grenades, mines, homing missiles, and the ever-handy, two-attack pump shotgun, just to name a few—is still in place, there are some novel ones thrown into the mix. A repelling magnet can be deployed that will instantly shove metallic items away; this is one way to clear a minefield, and it’s also an interesting indirect attack through walls. A ‘UFO’ can be summoned to tractor-beam discrete battlefield objects up from the ground and relocate them elsewhere. A ‘teleswap’ can transpose two worms at a distance, presumably because one of them is at full strength and the other just barely came lurching and burning out of pool of blazing petrol. Without a doubt the deadliest and most potentially annoying implement is the auto-sentry gun. Just like in Aliens, leave one of these things camped at a crucial point on the battlefield, and any enemy worm who pokes his head up within range of one of these things will get it shot full of lead at a high rate of fire. They can be displaced or destroyed, but they’re surprisingly tough and will resume their auto-sentry duties even after taking a good, long fall. I promise you, you will come to dread the little servo-mechanical whine they emit just before they start unloading on you.
Worms Revolution also offers slightly more obvious worm customization. In previous games you could name your (identical-looking) worms and even choose from different voice-sets and a handful of tombstones for when your little guys finally bought the dirt-farm… but here, you can outfit your worm army with trinkets and accessories—mustaches, blonde wigs, pirate hats. There are new voice-sets, but unless Team 17 is holding back a sizable stream of DLC, the actual number of unique voice-sets seems to have gone down from previous offerings, which is a little strange. What has gone up, however, is the actual classes of worms. In addition to the standard soldier-worm, Revolution offers ‘scout’, ‘heavy’ and big-brained ‘scientist’ worms, each with concomitant special abilities. ‘Scout’ worms are faster and more agile, for example, ‘heavies’ are big bruiser-types, and ‘scientist’ worms can do special things like set up deadlier sentry-guns, or quasi-remotely heal other nearby worms. As with the new water dynamics and object physics, it’s not a total game-changer—a Revolution, if you like—but it does promise another interesting layer to the Worms experience.
In addition to the expected local and online multiplayer, Worms Revolution will offer a surprisingly hefty single-player campaign mode, including a seriously-in-depth-in-fact-a-bit-much tutorial (spanning eight, count ‘em, eight levels, presumably just so people like me can’t bitch about them skimping on the solo play-value). These include battlefield visual themes such as rat-infested sewers, sunny tourist beaches, and a sort of ‘haunted’ theme looking like a cross between a desolate moor and a spooky garbage dump. Beyond the multiplayer and campaign mode, there are ‘Puzzle’ challenges, which put players into extremely particular set-ups with, often, a bare minimum of weapons to promote familiarity with creative ways to use the many inventory items. One final, surprising addition: everything, including the tutorials, is fully voiced by narrator Matt Berry (The Mighty Boosh, The IT Crowd), as the urbane, enthusiastic, smarmy, and not-entirely-sane naturalist ‘Don Keystone’.
You say you want a Revolution? You might not want to hold your breath. From what we’ve seen, you’re looking at essentially more—a generous amount more—of the same core Worms strategy, equal parts cartoonish and psychotic (four-legged animals, as a rule, still don’t fare well here), albeit with some decidedly refreshing new twists. We’ll dig up a full review, probably—just as soon as we’ve completed a large number of tense, brutal local and online battles… and have finished screaming obscenities at the screen, the keyboard, each other, online opponents who may not even speak English, and —sure, what the hell— quite possibly at Matt Berry, too.